Post Academic

The Post Academic Resume Series: Do You Need a Resume Objective?

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionThis post is the first in a series on putting your resume together. If you have had a CV, you might not remember the resume format and you might have trouble boiling your academic work into bullet points. We can help. Let’s start with the tricky Resume Objective.

The “resume objective” is a brief statement at the top of your resume in which you declare your intentions to a prospective employer. They usually read like this: “To work as an Algebra teacher at a public high school,” “To apply my skills as a Webmaster to a small nonprofit agency,” and “To convince people with low incomes to buy homes they can’t afford using adjustable-rate mortgages.” You get my drift.

But are resume objectives really necessary? They take up space, and they often sound like hot air because the real objective of most people is “To get a job. Any job.”

A resume objective is useful for only two types of people: those just out of college and those who are changing careers. Otherwise, your work experience will make clear why you are applying for a certain job.

More after the jump! Amelita Galli-Curci seated at desk using typewritter, dressed in fur coat and hat. From Wikimedia Commons with the following statement: “This is a press photograph from the George Grantham Bain collection, which was purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948. According to the library, there are no known restrictions on the use of these photos.” (more…)

Learning to Let Go of Your Publications

Posted in Housekeeping,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on May 11, 2010
Tags: , , , , , ,

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Jerry Jellison provides advice for academics who are putting together their first Hamster World resumes. He reminds readers that the resume’s goal is to answer one question: “What can you do for us?”

Along those lines, he advises that former academics (or soon-to-be former academics) skip listing publications. That can be painful since the whole point of being in grad school and academia is to rack up publications.

The issue here is not that your publications aren’t important to businesspeople. They are, but not in the same way they’re important to you. In the Hamster World, it’s less about prestige and more about your actions. Jellison suggests re-framing your academic work: “Instead of listing academic publications, describe the skills and traits that enabled you to write the articles or to conduct the research.”

Conducting research, staying organized, and forming a coherent argument are all talents that will appeal to employers. The fact that you had the tenacity to get published is more important than where you got published. So, instead of listing the papers themselves, say that you did research, conducted interviews, and crunched data.

Jellison has many more tips for translating your academic skills into business lingo. Don’t be afraid. By the time you’re done, you’ll realize that this process is way easier than an MLA interview. For more tips, check out my advice on turning your CV into a resume.

Another book Post Academic likes: So What Are You Going to Do with That?

Since we’re on the topic of post-academic books, it’s probably a good time to tout So What Are You Going to Do with That?, a helpful how-to guide for Ph.D.s interested in transitioning from academia to the hamster world, whether willingly or not.  It’s usually the first title mentioned when Ph.D.s and ABDs ask about what options are out there for them and don’t know where or how to start looking.

Written by two Princeton lit Ph.D.s, Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius, the book can be read either as a practical toolkit that provides the nuts-and-bolts on how to rethink your professional life or as a collection of narratives about experiences your peers have had going through what you’re going through now.  And don’t worry that the book takes a sappy self-help approach to career advice, because it’s written in a smart, conversational, and casual way that’s neither rah-rah nor an invite to a pity party.  However you like your advice, it’s going to help you brainstorm and give you ideas about career paths you might not have considered.

More about the book, after the jump…


Transfer Your Skills: Interviews in the Hamster World

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on April 13, 2010
Tags: , , , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionAfter turning your CV into a resume, you need to prepare for potential interviews. Most interview advice is universal. Preparing for an academic job interview is brutal because you have to sum up your whole grad-school career in a matter of minutes. The hamster world interview will probably seem like a breeze in comparison, but you still need to accomplish a few tasks if you want to get hired:

Write Answers for the Standard Interview Questions: All interviewers will ask some variation of the following questions:
1. What are your strengths?
2. What are your weaknesses?
3. How have you overcome a challenge at work?

Write out honest, succinct answers, and practice delivering them before you go into the interview. Be warned: The second question is tricky, as you want to choose a weakness that might actually be a strength depending on the job. Being “too much of a perfectionist” might work well if you’d like to be an editor.

More after the jump! Image of office in 1710 public domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Transfer Your Skills: Steer Clear of Unpaid Internships

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on April 4, 2010
Tags: , , , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWhen you’re making a career change, an internship accelerates your transformation. Not only will you build new skills, but you’ll also build your network. Accepting an internship at a dot-com helped me get my first real job after grad school, and I’ve been working for dot-coms ever since.

But here’s the deal—I was paid for my internship. I wasn’t paid much, but the people who hired me knew that a person can’t eat and make rent on experience and contacts alone. The hourly pay was low, but it still beat minimum wage, and it led to something better.

Unfortunately, more companies are calling for interns, and based on what I’ve seen on Craigslist, many of the new internships are unpaid. According to the New York Times, the Department of Labor is on to this scam:

“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.

An unpaid internship might be all right if you are in college and getting credit, but remember that a legitimate company should pay for your time. Internships typically involve making photocopies and brewing coffee, but that is still work, and you should still get money. If the company refuses to pay you, don’t take the internship, no matter how prestigious the company is. You can’t eat prestige.

Growth of Unpaid Internships May Be Illegal, Officials Say [NYT]

University Salaries Revealed! Kind Of

Yesterday, I recommended as a way to get the scoop on a company. Then I wondered if I could get any information about universities from the site.

For kicks, I looked up “assistant professor,” and the sheer range of salaries that appeared was astonishing. You can look up any school, but I plucked out a few salary ranges:

Assistant Professor at Texas A&M: $58K-113K
Assistant Professor at the University of Florida: $52K-$95K
Assistant Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago: $55K-$87K

Right below the salaries for the Assistant Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago position, I noticed listings for the University of Chicago, and profs at private schools appear to make more, between $58K and $186K. Yet their base rate isn’t all that different from the base rate at public universities.

The base rate is probably the most realistic expectation if you are hoping to land a job as a humanities prof. However, knowing how high a university is willing to go can give you more bargaining power if you get a job offer, especially if you find out how much similar universities are willing to pay.

If you are considering grad school but think you might have to go into debt, checking can help you figure out how long it will take for you to pay off your loans with a certain salary. If you don’t think you can pay off your loans at between $50 to $60K a year, you might want to shift gears or go to a less expensive school.


Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on March 31, 2010
Tags: , , , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionA major disadvantage of moving from academia to the hamster world is that you probably don’t know how much you deserve to be paid. However, many companies ask you to provide your rate in a cover letter, or they’ll ask you in an interview.

What do you say? Grad students are notoriously low-paid, and if you throw out what you actually made last year, the company will lowball you or laugh in your face because you seem desperate.

Here’s where comes in. If you register for an account, you can research companies and find out what people are making in certain positions. This also includes hourly employees if you are considering contract work. Employees post their salaries and comments on the company anonymously. While the site is limited toward larger companies, you can still get a better idea of what you can expect to earn when you change jobs.

The comments section is also eye-opening, but as you know all too well with Rate My Professors, most people go to the site only when they’re royally pissed off. A low rating on might not mean much, but you should still read the comments to look for trends relating to the company as a whole. For example, if most of the comments mention major overtime or underwhelming health insurance, you might want to reconsider sending your resume.

Image of Disney’s Hollywood Hotel Café by Bvld11 under a Creative Commons license, from Wikimedia Commons.

The psychological baggage of your CV

I wanted to follow up Caroline’s really helpful how-to’s on converting a CV into a resume by focusing on my own real-time experiences of doing just that, particularly some of the more intangible aspects of the process.  What makes turning a CV into a resume all the more difficult is the psychological baggage that goes along with it, since it can symbolize something you wish it didn’t–that you might be becoming a post-academic.  It’s not so much figuring out a new set of conventions that’s the tough part, but the self-scrutiny and rose-colored reminiscences that can really paralyze you.  Writing a resume feels like a surrendering the past to the future, when paring 5 pages down to 1 page feels like you’ve just ended up with a blank page.

Here are some of the mixed feelings I’ve dealt with in writing a resume and what I’m telling myself I need to do to thoughtfully and seriously prepare for a transition.

1. Get(ting) over it: Does shearing off all the details of your CV feel like your academic achievements don’t matter?  What exactly happened to the last 5 to 7 (to 10) years of your life?  Do your faculty recommendations even matter any more?  Going through your CV to decide what to keep (a little bit) and what to ditch (almost everything) is a daunting task, because it requires a retrospective introspection that isn’t easy, especially when you’re forced to do it.

In the post-academic’s touchstone, “So What Are You Going to Do with That?”, by Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius, there’s a chapter on resumes that’s aptly titled “This Might Hurt a Bit,” which offers great how-to advice on shaping a resume out of CV.  But more important than the nuts-and-bolts of the process (though the list of resume verbs on to use on 110-11 is pretty great), Basalla and Debelius get you into the right mindset with some tough love.  According to them, the editing process involves some cuts that’ll sting.  But, for your own sake, leave off the following (109-10):

See the list and more after the jump…


Transfer Your Skills: Turning Your CV Into a Resume

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on March 26, 2010
Tags: , , , , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionMany academics work on building a CV, not a resume. However, you’ll need a resume for the hamster world, and CVs and resumes are two different animals.

For starters, the resume is much shorter. You can list your experience in reverse chronological order, but if you have a long work history or you are a career-changer, then you may wish to list your experience into several groups:

Relevant Experience: Here you list the jobs you performed that are similar to the job to which you are applying. For example, if you are applying to work as a copy editor, you may want to list the fact that you worked on your department’s grad student newsletter or you had a side gig as an editor.

Other Work Experience: Even if some of your jobs weren’t relevant, you still need to list them to convince a potential employer that you are not prone to sitting on the sofa eating bonbons and watching paternity test results on Maury Povitch. Even if you are prone to Povitch’s paternity test shows, you don’t want your employer to know.

Freelance Experience: You may or may not want to list this separately. If you’re applying for a writing gig, and you’ve written as a freelancer, then you should list this section under relevant experience. But if you did freelance work to build up other skill sets that are important but not directly relevant to the job, then list it in this section.

An Important Note: Resumes are much shorter than CVs. You may have heard that all resumes must be under one page. This is not true. My resume is just under a page and a half, and no one has ever told me I didn’t get a job because my resume was too long. I usually didn’t get the job because my skills and experience didn’t match their needs.

A resume’s goal is to let future employers know what you can do for them in as short a space as possible. If you have a long work history that will benefit the employer, then don’t leave anything out just because of some obscure rule you may have heard in a high-school typing class. That said, you don’t want to go on and on, either.

Any more questions about resumes? I’m happy to answer. Also, if you’re not sure how to word certain aspects of your resume, join LinkedIn, and read what your contacts have posted.

Image of “human computers” in the NACA High Speed Flight Station “Computer Room”, Dryden Flight Research Center Facilities, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Resources: LinkedIn

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on March 25, 2010
Tags: , , , , , ,

Networking is one of the most painful parts about building a career, especially if you are a shy person who prefers to have a nose in a book. I consider myself one of those shy people. I also liked to believe that I could let my merit speak for me and that I didn’t have to be “fake” and schmooze my way up the ladder.

However, I discovered that networking is really just making acquaintances—and possibly terrific friends—who happen to have the same career interests you do. Think of how you make friends after moving to a new town or starting a new stage in life. You probably ask friends you currently have if they know anyone in that area or that school. Then you spend time with those people, and your circle of friends expands. And that’s all networking is, except you might talk about career trends more, and you can’t drink as much, lest you embarrass yourself in front of a potential employer.

The Web site is a way for you to get accustomed to networking. If you’re already on Facebook, then there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t open an account on LinkedIn, which is like Facebook, only with more resume info and fewer embarrassing photos.

By signing up on LinkedIn, you can find friends of yours, and you can also search for specific companies. When you perform a company search, you can find out if you know anyone who works at one of those companies. A connection can work behind the scenes to help you get hired at a job. It isn’t fair, but, as Arnold writes about the myth of pure merit, networking can get you a job, especially if a company can choose only one applicant from a pool of equally worthy individuals.


**As always, this post isn’t intended to be an ad, but if we come across a site that will save you time or get you a new job, then we’re plenty happy to spread the word.

« Previous PageNext Page »